Roy Morgan has published results from a small-sample phone poll showing Labor’s two-party lead at 54.5-45.5, compared with 53-47 at the previous such poll early last month. Morgan’s phone polls consistently give Labor lower ratings than its headline face-to-face polls. The poll was conducted on the back of a survey of 659 respondents to ascertain views on climate change, which found support for the government’s carbon emissions trading scheme down four points to 46 per cent and opposition up five points to 36 per cent.
To demonstrate that those who believe nothing happens over the silly season aren’t looking hard enough:
The federal government’s much ballyhooed plan to reform regulation of political funding appears to have ended with a whimper. Whereas former Special Minister of State John Faulkner said last year the reforms would definitely be in place before the next election, his successor Joe Ludwig is refusing to make any commitments regarding the timing or content of any legislation. It was reported in October that the government and the opposition were close to agreeing on a package including limits on campaign spending and donations, increases in public funding to parties to cover the loss, and restriction of political advertising by third parties including unions and lobby groups. As part of the deal, the Coalition would drop its opposition to slashing the threshold for public disclosure of donations, which it voted down in the Senate last year with the support of Steve Fielding, and Labor would include union affiliation fees in a ban on donations from corporations, third parties and associated entities. The latter measure crucially met opposition from union leaders concerned it would reduce their influence. Furthermore, a leaked memo from Labor MP Michael Danby argued a move from private to public funding would be a bonanza for the Greens which they could use to target Labor-held inner-city seats. The scheme’s opponents have a handy weapon in the grave political difficulty involved in increasing public funding to political parties, which Danby argues would need to increase by a factor of 10 to keep them operating at their current level. In response to the obvious objection that the proposed package included spending caps, Danby argues that such mechanisms are untested and possibly unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Brian Robins of the Sydney Morning Herald reports NSW Electoral Commissioner Colin Barry has told a parliamentary committee that state legislation to introduce public funding was close to unworkable, making it very unlikely the measure will be introduced before the next election.
Loretta Johnston of the Launceston Examiner reports that a decision by the Right faction not to challenge the Left over the succession to Duncan Kerr in the federal seat of Denison indicates a deal has been struck which will leave Bass clear for confirmed starter Geoff Lyons, a staffer to Right faction Senator Helen Polley and former manager at Launceston General Hospital. However, it’s also noted that the Prime Minister has been tipped to take particular interest in the seat, and will be able to direct the national executive to take action if a candidate he prefers comes forward. The report names state Bass candidate Michelle Cripps as a potential alternative if she does not win a seat in the state election. However, Danielle Blewett of The Examiner surprisingly offers that the Prime Minister has made it clear he wanted a man to run for Bass after the recent distress experienced by incumbent Bass MHR Jodie Campbell, according to Labor sources.
Robert Taylor of The West Australian reports the Western Australian ALP is struggling to find a federal candidate for Cowan to replace Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly, who stood aside a month ago because he was too closely linked to Brian Burke, as almost everybody in local politics suffers the same problem. Two names mentioned as possibilities are Karen Brown, former West Australian deputy editor, current chief-of-staff to Opposition Leader Eric Ripper and unsuccessful candidate for Mount Lawley at the 2008 state election, and Sam Roe, an ALP staffer.
Contrary to earlier reports that they were pushed as much as jumped, Paul Toohey of The Daily Telegraph reports Fowler MP Julia Irwin and Throsby MP Jennie George were offered extra terms due to the Prime Minister’s determination to avoid factional conflicts over who would succeed them.
The Camden Haven Courier reports there are three candidates for Nationals preselection in Lyne, which was won at a 2008 by-election by independent Rob Oakeshott after Mark Vaile’s retirement: Port Macquarie medical specialist David Gillespie, Taree legal practitioner Quentin Schneider and Port Macquarie electrical contractor Jamie Harrison.
Antony Green lays out possible federal election dates, noting when double dissolution and half-Senate elections are due as well as the complicating factors of school holidays, long weekends and sporting events.
The Australian Electoral Commission has published the final report for the Queensland federal redistribution, complete with individual maps for the redrawn seats.
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is conducting an inquiry in the New South Wales automatic enrolment scheme, legislation for which was enacted last month. The closing date for submissions is next Friday; the committee is schedule to report on February 25.
Business SA has published a wish list of state constitutional and electoral reform. This includes two features the government hoped to put to an all-or-nothing referendum in conjunction with the next election: cutting upper house members’ terms from eight years to four, and introducing a double dissolution mechanism. Also recommended are the introduction of compulsory enrolment, which I actually thought had been done a couple of months ago; optional preferential voting (which has always seemed to me a no-brainer but then has so has its logical corollary, optional voting); abolition of ticket votes in the upper house with a requirement that voters number only as many candidates as there are vacancies (which raises problems if that number is 22, as it would be if you abandoned eight-year terms); abolition of South Australia’s unusual mechanism to save informal lower house votes by deeming partially completed ballots to have followed the relevant party’s registered how-to-vote card (which would be logical, perhaps even necessary, if optional preferential voting was introduced); a strengthened truth in advertising clause (a cure worse than the disease, as Democratic Audit has noted the government got it right when it made misleading advertising grounds for declaring a result void if it may have affected the result); and by-elections when sitting members resign from their party (not entirely sure what I think about this). Among the recommended reforms for parliament is appointing outsiders as Speaker and President.
Hobart’s Taste food festival turned ugly just before new year, following what Matthew Denholm of The Australian calls a heated arm-waving confrontation between Elise Archer and Sue Hickey, respectively current and former state Liberal candidates for Denison. Two witnesses pointed the finger of blame firmly at Archer: festival director and unsuccessful Liberal preselection aspirant Marti Zucco, who subsequently quit the Liberal Party over parliamentary leader Will Hodgman’s failure to act against Archer, and Hobart deputy mayor and Greens candidate Helen Burnet. The latter was allegedly told by Archer’s husband, former state party president Dale Archer, to f*** off when she intervened on Hickey’s behalf. Hodgman ordered Archer to apologise to Hickey, which she did by email. At issue was whether there were too many lawyers in parliament: Hickey had argued there was, and Archer a lawyer and, like Zucco, a Hobart alderman expressed a strong view to the contrary. Matthew Denholm further notes that Archer is associated with the Right, whereas Hickey is a moderate. Various reports in the aftermath of the incident have focused on a rift in the party between moderates and the Right, with the latter evidently having gained ascendancy. Hickey had withdrawn as a candidate a fortnight previously as she did not wish for her business to forego government contracts, as required of parliamentarians by an onerous provision in the state constitution. She was replaced on the Liberal ticket by Richard Lowrie, a manager with Hobart catamaran manufacturers Incat.
Further upsetting the previously smooth-travelling Tasmanian Liberal applecart is news that Franklin candidate Jillian Law described by Sue Neales of The Mercury as delightful Huon Valley Liberal candidate and grandmother received an email purportedly from a party insider which said Right powerbroker Senator Eric Abetz was very, very angry with her, and would be doing what he can to see you are not elected. The email also informed Law she was offside with Will Hodgman, the party’s sole member for Franklin, as she had been running about the Huon Valley telling everyone he is second to you in terms of local support.
Peter van Onselen of The Australian reviews the 2010 electoral landscape.